I recently had the pleasure of visiting The Vineyard to sample their tasting menu and accompanying wines with my husband. The Vineyard is an exclusive restaurant with luxury suites and an award-winning spa, which basically lives and breathes wine, just my kind of place! It has five AA Red Stars, an award-winning wine list, 32 suites and 17 bedrooms which are named after iconic wines from around the world. The hotel is situated on the outskirts of Newbury which is very conveniently reached from the M4, it takes just over an hour to get here from London or about 2 hours by train.
We found the restaurant easily and there was plenty of parking available. First impressions mean a lot and at The Vineyard they are very good indeed; outside the building is beautiful and the large ornamental pond is surrounded by elegant shrubs and topiary that set the scene for what awaits indoors. The foyer and entrance are spacious and luxurious; as our visit was just before Christmas, we were lucky enough to be able to admire their huge green wine bottle Christmas tree – unusual and very impressive. But, even more impressive is the vast, 800-bottle glass-floored, walkthrough wine vault. It is stunningly lit to perfection and to be honest I didn’t really want to tear myself away, walking through it was fascinating and I longed to linger! The Vineyard, which opened in 1998, is privately owned by the Michael family, who also own the highly-regarded Peter Michael Winery in California. A feast for the eyes awaits at the Vineyard too as the family are big art enthusiasts and striking paintings, sketches and sculptures are everywhere you look – close to 1,000 pieces are displayed throughout the buildings.
The Bar & Restaurant
After a very pleasant drink in the comfortable bar area, we were seated in the gorgeous restaurant. The domed ceiling makes for a magnificent centrepiece and this, combined with the huge, double-height windows mean that the place was completely flooded with the winter sunlight. This is somewhere to settle, take your time and enjoy your food, wine and company, so the chairs are extra comfortable, the service is impeccable and very soon, rushing is the last thing on your mind. The calm atmosphere instantly soothes giving you the chance to savour each course and every sip; a perfect way to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon in my book!
The lunchtime menu includes a 3-course option and 2 fabulous tasting menus plus a vegetarian tasting menu. We chose the Judgement Tasting Menu which consists of seven dishes, they were more than happy to swap some of the dishes with others from the different tasting menus to suit our specific tastes and recommended which would work nicely to maintain the flow of dishes. All the courses were exquisite and beautifully presented with wonderful flavour combinations. Our favourites would have to be the Roasted veal sweetbread, chestnut puree and Sherry sauce which was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth and the Slow cooked partridge, salt baked celeriac and parmesan – simply delectable. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the year, plus there is a bar menu and a Sunday lunch menu.
With over 30,000 bottles, a 3,000 bin list and over 100 wines by the glass, there really is something for everyone. To really understand the fun that awaits with the wine, you need to first know a little background! At The Vineyard, they like to tell the story of the Judgement of Paris – in 1976, in small room in a Paris hotel, a strange thing happened, in a blind tasting with some of the leading French wine aficionados of the day, Californian wines were chosen over France’s very best. A shocking, revolutionary result and one which is central to the very entertaining way in which their wine is served here! We opted for the Judgement Wines to accompany the tasting menu which means that they let you play along in true Judgement of Paris fashion – for each course the wonderful, very knowledgeable and informative wine sommelier serves you two wines, gives some info on each but crucially doesn’t reveal which is which. You’re left to enjoy your food, enjoy your wines and then your sommelier returns and you find out whether you were right or not! Despite the fact that I consider myself something of a wine connoisseur, several of them had me totally baffled and my score was by no means 100%! To further complicate matters, two of the wines are served in blackened glasses so you’re not even told whether they are red, white or rosé and believe me, it’s surprisingly difficult to tell the difference with certain wines. Not only does serving wines this way give you the opportunity to taste some sensational wines, both Californian and French, that perfectly complement each course, but it’s very enjoyable to play along and you learn a lot about the wines too. The Vineyard also holds wine nights, runs wine schools and you can arrange private wine tastings.
For a unique food and wine experience in an uber-stylish setting, where your passion for wine can be both shared and indulged, book a table at The Vineyard; perfect for a family Sunday lunch, an evening catching up with friends or just a special meal for two.
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